November 13, 2019

What if WW2 had been voluntarily funded?

Thought experiment: What if WW2 had been voluntarily funded? Might the outcomes have been dramatically better for the U.S. and the world?

By Perry Willis

This article will…

  • Remind you of the verdicts reached in my previous articles about past U.S. wars.
  • Conduct a thought experiment, to evaluate how WW2 might have gone differently had the U.S. replaced taxation with voluntary funding.

The results achieved by past U.S. wars

I’ve shown that no U.S. wars had good outcomes. None protected America, defended freedom, or made the world a better place.

I’ve also demonstrated that even U.S achievements in World War 2 are both misunderstood and overrated. I’ve provided evidence both that Hitler would have lost to the Soviet Union, whether the United States was involved or not, and that U.S. intervention had primarily negative consequences. Specifically, U.S. politicians…

  • Created communist North Korea
  • Paved the way for Red China
  • Helped Stalin conquer Eastern Europe

Arguably, the only positive gain from U.S. involvement in WW2 was…

Saving Western Europe from Soviet conquest.

Would Stalin have stopped in Germany once he had eliminated Hitler? It seems doubtful. It’s very likely that he would have kept on rolling, all the way to the English Channel. This means that the U.S. presence in Germany and France saved Western Europe from Soviet conquest. That’s an impressive achievement. But I’ll show you that much more was possible. U.S. politicians could have avoided…

The four big failures of WW2

I’ve already shown in other articles, or will show you below, how different policies could have…

  1. Avoided the creation of North Korea, and perhaps Red China too.
  2. Stopped the Holocaust early.
  3. Defeated Nazi Germany long before May 8, 1945.
  4. Kept Stalin out of Eastern Europe.

The U.S. could have achieved all of this with less expense and loss of life. Only one reform was needed…

Replace taxation and borrowing with voluntary funding!

Your brain is probably screaming now…

“Impossible!” Government can’t exist without taxation! And you can’t fight a war with voluntary funding! Hitler and Japan would have conquered the world!

Well, the first thing you need to know is that 3/4ths of the war was funded through borrowing. In other words, people bought bonds that they would later pay taxes to redeem. This amounted to Americans taking money out of one of their pockets and putting it in another. So the funding for WW2 was already quasi-voluntary. But I want to examine the following questions…

  • Could the funding have been made completely voluntary?
  • Would that have improved the result?

And if you still think this idea is outrageous, please consider…

Many possible things were once thought impossible.

Once upon a time, people were absolutely certain that…

  • Crop growth required human sacrifice!
  • God (or the gods) would be angry unless we slaughtered small animals on an altar!
  • Civilization couldn’t function without slaves. Slavery was the price humans had to pay for civilization!
  • Women belonged in the home. Patriarchy was fundamental to a functioning society!
  • The Berlin Wall would never come down in our lifetimes!

All those “certainties” were wrong. The fact is…

We humans are terrible at predicting what’s possible!

We also wrongly assume that the current system is the best we can do. Please realize…

Anatomically modern humans have been on the planet for at least 40,000 years, but our industrial-scientific civilization is only 200 years old. That means we’re barely out of the crib! There must surely be new things to try. And one way to explore the possibilities is by conducting thought experiments. For instance…

What if voluntary funding had replaced taxation and borrowing after the first world war?

As you read my proposed answer to this thought experiment, please realize…

The main point is NOT that things would have happened in exactly the way I describe below. The main point is that replacing taxation with voluntary funding would have forced politicians like FDR to be more creative.

You will save yourself the time of writing an indignant email, and me of reading it, if you re-read those two sentences closely.

I think the pressure to be creative would have led to better results. All humans perform better when they have to earn their income. I think the same is true for politicians and government. My point can be stated simply…

Voluntary funding would’ve led to better outcomes in WW2!

Imagine that Americans had the power, during the WW2 era, to fill out a form each pay-period to direct specific amounts to various functions of the federal government. Imagine how that would have changed the behavior of both citizens and politicians.

What would FDR have done about Japan under such conditions?

In our world, Roosevelt imposed sanctions on Japan for invading China. He had no constitutional authority to do this, but he did it anyway. Those sanctions eventually led to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the resulting war caused the creation of North Korea, and perhaps even the rise of Red China. But…

Voluntary funding for the government would have made things more difficult for FDR. He still could have imposed his sanctions, but Americans who favored neutrality would have reduced their funding as a vote against his policies. As a practical matter, rule by decree would no longer have been an option for FDR. Every action would have carried a cost. So what would he have done instead, given the changed incentives?

Perhaps nothing. Trying to persuade the public to fund an intervention to protect China against Japan might have gone poorly. After all, China was ruled by Chaing Kai Shek, a murderous dictator who actually killed more Chinese people than the Japanese did. Some Americans in the missionary movement might have donated to defend Chiang, but their donations would have been countered by reduced contributions from Americans who favored neutrality. Under those circumstances, FDR might have decided to adopt neutrality himself.

Would U.S. neutrality in the Sino-Japanese war have made the world a worse place?

It’s hard to see how. In our world Mao ended up ruling China after the U.S. defeated Japan. Mao killed more than 50 million people. Would it really have been worse if Japan had prevailed in China instead of Mao?

Or what if stalemate had resulted, with neither Chaing, Mao, nor Japan winning the upper-hand? That too would have been better than what happened in our world.


What if Japan had been able to retain Korea as a colony, because the U.S. didn’t intervene in Asia? That would have been worse for the people who now live in South Korea, but better for those who live in North Korea. In the long run, Japan probably would have relinquished Korea, as happened with all other empires and their colonies. I think a few decades as a Japanese colony would have been better than nearly one hundred years of communist rule in North Korea.


In our world, Japan became a democracy after the U.S. defeated them. But Japan already had elements of democracy before the war, and maintained many democratic institutions during the war, though the military-dominated. A Japan ruled by the military was a bad thing, but so was destroying every Japanese city, and the thousands of U.S. deaths that happened in our world. It isn’t clear that adjusting the nature of the Japanese government was worth that price.

All in all, it’s hard to see how things could have gone much worse, or much better in the Pacific, except for one consideration…

No Americans would have died at Pearl Harbor or on remote island beaches if voluntary funding of government had compelled FDR to remain neutral. And all that money and all those weapons and soldiers would have then been available for potential use in Europe. So…

What would FDR have done in Europe?

Voluntary funding would have constrained FDR in Europe just like it did in the Pacific. Every move he made to aid the British or provoke Hitler would have been punished by neutral Americans withdrawing funding.

Does this mean that voluntary funding would have helped Hitler prevail? Of course not. It must be repeatedly stressed that Hitler was already doomed by the time the first U.S. soldiers landed at Normandy. For instance…

Please remember that the big German guns had already been stripped from the bunkers overlooking Utah beach, by the time D-Day happened. The Germans sent those guns to the Russian front. That’s because the Germans were losing to the Soviets. They feared what the Soviets could do in the East more than what the Allies could do in the West. So the real question we want to answer doesn’t concern how to defeat Hitler, but rather…

How could FDR have achieved a better outcome under voluntary funding than happened under taxation?

This is what I would have done in Europe had I been FDR.

I would NOT have tried to persuade the American people to fund an armed intervention in Europe. Instead, I would have looked for opportunities to turn the German military against the Nazi regime. Please understand…

Many German generals were opposed to the Nazis from day one. They made constant overtures to the west for potential assistance against Hitler. Secret negotiations were underway between various generals and the Western powers from the early 1930s straight through to the end of the war.

If I had been FDR, I would have looked for ways to foster a German military coup.

So long as Hitler was winning he was popular with the German people. This made a coup unlikely or impossible. But the situation changed once the Germans began to struggle on the Eastern front.

I would have told the German generals to end their war in the West so as to better defend themselves in the East. What was the price for peace in the West? Two things. The generals would have to…

  • Remove the Nazi regime.
  • Withdraw from all the countries they had conquered in the West.

I would also have used Hitler’s Jewish genocide as extra leverage.

FDR knew about Nazi plans to exterminate the Jews very early on, but he did nothing about it. That was a huge mistake, both morally and strategically.

I would have talked about the genocide every day. I would have made the subject a source of global embarrassment for every decent German, in uniform or out. I would have taken every opportunity to publicly urge the German generals and the German people to stop the genocide by removing the Nazi regime.

I would have publicly urged the British to drop leaflets all over Germany, to expose the genocide and ask the German people to support a military coup against Hitler.

I would have solicited voluntary funding to expand the U.S. military, in anticipation that U.S. troops might be useful for garrison duty in France once the Nazi regime was toppled. Please be clear – I would do this to provide a garrison force, NOT combat troops. My fundraising efforts would have met with some resistance from those Americans who still favored non-involvement, but I think there would have been enough support for my narrowly focused goals.

I think my campaign would have fostered paranoia and sleepless nights among the Nazi leaders. That would have been worth it, all by itself.

I would have pressed the negotiations with the German generals that were already underway in Switzerland. I would have offered to support Germany in its own borders against Soviet encroachment, so long as the Nazi regime was eliminated and all conquests relinquished. I think such an agreement would have been very popular with Americans. I think donations would have poured in to support it.

The result?

It’s possible, even probable, that my strategy would have resulted in no coup during 1942. But the tide would have turned by February, 1943 when the Germans surrendered at Stalingrad. Worldwide humiliation over Hitler’s genocide, combined with looming defeat by the Soviet hordes, would have created the conditions for the German generals to act.

Hitler’s last day on Earth

I believe the German generals would have taken Hitler and Himmler and the whole Nazi gang out of their beds in the dead of night, stood them up against walls, and shot them. There would have been no chance for grand orations, scapegoating, or excuse-making at a trial. That’s not the American way, but it’s probably what the German generals would have done.

No Soviet hordes in Middle Europe

I think the German generals would then have removed their troops from France, Belgium, etc., and sent them to shore-up a more defensive position on the Eastern front.

No more Holocaust

The German generals would have turned the Nazi concentration camps over to the care of the Red Cross and other international relief agencies. Hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved. Perhaps millions. And something of German honor would have been salvaged too.

No D-Day

British, French, Canadian, and Polish troops, would have landed in France, without opposition. Voluntarily funded American soldiers would have been there with them. There would have been no need for a bloody invasion of Normandy, and no sea-of-graves along the French coastline.

The war in the east

I believe that negotiations to end the war in the East would have begun immediately. The likely outcome would have been the restoration of the old Soviet borders and the recreation of all the states that had been conquered by the combined efforts of the Nazis and the Soviets.

Would paranoid Stalin have risked his regime against a united Europe and America, or would he have made peace? With millions of German soldiers still on Soviet soil, more on the way, and the prospect of having to also face British, French, and perhaps even American troops, Stalin would have accepted peace.

There would have been no Soviet conquest of Eastern Europe, no Iron Curtain, no Warsaw Pact, and probably no Cold War.

What FDR did in real life

We did not get any of the benefits described above. Instead…

FDR allied the U.S. with the evil Stalin, placing a moral stain on the entire war effort. FDR then declared a policy of unconditional surrender. He did this without consulting Congress or his allies. This action removed all hope of a negotiated settlement with the German generals, who now had little incentive to topple the Nazi regime. The result was more months of unrelenting murder, and the loss of Easten Europe to communist tyranny.

Roosevelt had the power to pursue his boneheaded strategy because taxation made him largely immune from public opinion. His policies would be funded no matter how bad they were! Voluntary funding would have incentivized creativity and better results.

What would have been true then is also true now. Voluntary funding would give us consumer controlled government, leading to less tyranny and better results. It’s even possible that a regime of voluntary funding could actually make foreign intervention work in some instances. May we someday achieve this. In the meantime, please understand…

The tax-funded approach achieved a bad outcome in WW2. There were better possibilities.

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  1. Stephen Groton
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    This is a great idea, proposal and analysis. Thanks. I have, for decades, thought that paying taxes for what we want to see done and withholding funds from what we don’t want to see financed, is not only a good idea, but a no-brainer, to boot. How else should a free, classically liberal group deal with finance? It’s worthy of consideration, anyhow.

    The historical analysis will be revelatory to many and is truly insightful. Love it.

    • Perry Willis
      Posted December 9, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Thanks Stephen!

  2. Posted November 14, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Hi Perry,

    How about a dignant email/comment? đŸ™‚

    Voluntary funding is *always* the superior approach. It is the only way to truly express “the will of the people.” It is the only moral approach that engages individual choice.

    Voluntary funding is always morally superior to taxation (i.e. the taking of money at the point of a gun) and borrowing (i.e. deferred taxation) and also to an approach you didn’t mention, inflation (a.k.a. ‘quantitative easing,’ yet another form of theft by value dilution).

    That the practical outcome of voluntary funding is also superior has been demonstrated time and again, and is most clearly seen in the realm of economics. When markets are truly free, everyone benefits.

    Thanks for another great thought experiment!

    • Perry Willis
      Posted December 9, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Thanks creator!

  3. Penni B
    Posted November 16, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Once again, Perry Willis gives all of us a ‘truth flash’. Voluntary contributions are (and were!) the backbone of many improvements in outcomes: Red Cross vs. socialized health care, Habitat for Humanity vs. government-subsidized housing, and the list could go on and on. Interestingly enough, I agree even with the ‘appeasing God’s wrath (or the gods) through animal sacrifices’ being in error, although probably not for the same reasons. The intent of animal sacrifices in the Tanach was to exhibit faith in the promise of Genesis 3:15 and the honoring of the principle described in Hebrews 9:22. (Which BTW, is partially described in Exodus 24:8) The prophets also decried offerings of animals without a heart that sought to turn from injustice and deal mercifully with all mankind. (Ps. 40: 7-9, Isaiah 1:11-16, for two examples) Frankly, it possibly could have saved Deidrich Bonhoffer’s life (and many others) had America actually supported a coup.

    • Perry Willis
      Posted December 9, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Thanks Penni!

  4. Gary Westmoreland
    Posted June 28, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Dear Perry, I enjoyed reading the thought experiment.
    Would Congress and the Supreme Court gone along
    with voluntary funding? Best wishes, Gary Westmoreland

    • Perry Willis
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      The public would have to favor voluntary funding before Congress would enact it. But once Congress took that steps the Supreme Court would tend to go along. They tend to endorse congressional desires most of the time, even when they shouldn’t.

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